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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bitters on top of bitters makes for an outstanding Angostura cocktail

Posted By on 04.30.15 at 03:30 PM

The Amora Amaro (left) and Road to Manhattan cocktails
  • Julia Thiel
  • The Amora Amaro (left) and Road to Manhattan cocktails
Angostura bitters is a cocktail staple, ubiquitous at even the most poorly stocked bars. The recipe, allegedly known to only five people in the world, is a closely guarded secret; the only ingredient listed on the bottle besides alcohol, water, sugar, and "natural flavorings" is gentian (a bittering agent). There are supposedly a total of 47 ingredients in the bitters, mostly herbs and spices—but which ones is anyone's guess.

The House of Angostura recently released a new, related product: Amaro di Angostura, a liqueur created from Angostura bitters steeped with a neutral spirit, more herbs and spices, and (presumably) more sugar. Unlike Angostura bitters, which is so intense in flavor that it's usually measured in dashes rather than ounces, the amaro can be consumed straight. It's very sweet, with lots of warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves, some fennel and licorice, and—improbably but undeniably—just a hint of mint flavor.

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It Follows is overrated—watch Kiyoshi Kurosawa's miniseries Penance instead

Posted By on 04.30.15 at 03:00 PM

Kiyoshi Kurosawas Penance
  • Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Penance
I was ambivalent about David Robert Mitchell's It Follows when I wrote about it a month ago, but the more I think about this undeniably well-crafted horror film, the less I like it. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have given it so much thought if the movie hadn't become a critical and commercial hit (it's about to enter its seventh week at the Music Box). With regards to recent low-budget American horror, I'm more interested in the unpretentious, but thematically rich, features being cranked out by Blumhouse Productions (Oculus, The Purge: Anarchy, The Lazarus Effect, Unfriended) than in the wave of arty, but thematically thin, horror movies epitomized by Follows and Blue Ruin. Both camps demonstrate reverence toward such 1970s mavericks as John Carpenter, George A. Romero, and Larry Cohen, infusing low-budget horror with social critique and formal experimentation. Yet where most directors in the Blumhouse stable seem comfortable maintaining the look and feel of genre entertainment, Mitchell, Jeremy Saulnier, and Jim Mickle seem overeager to prove that they're not just talented horror directors, but serious artists as well. I don't want to begrudge these filmmakers their ambitions (indeed I wrote admiringly of Mickle's Cold in July last year). Still, I doubt whether Mitchell is saying anything significant enough to warrant his self-important style.

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James Beard Foundation Awards events will be everywhere this weekend

Posted By on 04.30.15 at 01:00 PM

  • James Beard Foundation

It's gotten very little attention from local food media (that was sarcasm) but the James Beard Foundation Awards for chefs and restaurants are being held on Monday night, and there are approximately 14,000,000 events related to them this weekend. Most are for industry people, but some are open to regular folks who want to mingle with chefs and such. For instance, tonight Acadia is hosting a bourbon and bluegrass party from 6 to 10 PM. Chef Ryan McCaskey will whip up a raw oyster bar, a suckling pig, and other things, while Greg Buttera (Dusek's, Thalia Hall) and Stephen Cole (Lone Wolf) will mix bourbon cocktails. It's $75, part of which will go the Chicago Zoological Society and the Brookfield Zoo.

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Brilliant Michigan grindcore band Cloud Rat stream new album, play Chicago

Posted By on 04.30.15 at 12:00 PM

Cloud Rat
  • Adam DeGross
  • Cloud Rat

Despite my fondness for loud, obnoxious music, I often have a hard time warming up to grindcore—usually because I can't hear enough of what's happening. Combine hyperactive distorted guitars with frenzied, pistoning drums, and in most cases the shape and direction of the riffs ends up lost. It's like listening to a busy construction site—all you can make out is churning, percussive noise and shouting. Some bands make that work by expertly modulating the density and speed of the barrage—Wormrot come to mind—but I tend to prefer the ones that build in a little breathing room instead.

Hence this post on Cloud Rat. Even when these Michigan punks blitz at warp nine, their riffs maintain a human-scale metabolism that preserves their emotional weight—they can feel not only urgent and enraged (easy to do at top speed) but also triumphal, melancholy, or despairing. Some songs border on doom metal, with spacious, contemplative, and even lyrical passages, not just the obligatory half-time breakdowns.

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Did you read about Bernie Sanders, Riot Fest, and 'frexting'?

Posted By on 04.30.15 at 11:23 AM

Bernie Sanders throws his hat in the ring
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, alarm, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

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Governor Rauner's Democratic allies roll a Trojan Horse into town

Posted By on 04.30.15 at 10:46 AM

The cuts keep coming.
  • M. Spencer Green/AP Photos
  • The cuts keep coming.
While I was preoccupied with Chuy Garcia's race against Mayor Rahm, Governor Rauner fired the opening shots in his crusade against the poor and the infirm.

In short, I was in the middle of a two-front war and I didn't realize it.

I'm referring to Governor Bruce's assault on anything remotely resembling a state-funded program for people who're not as fabulously wealthy as the governor and his top donors.

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How the NFL draft has changed since it was last held in Chicago, 51 years ago

Posted By on 04.30.15 at 09:00 AM

The Draft Town fest in Grant Park features areas where fans can watch the draft for free.
  • Courtesy NFL
  • The Draft Town fest in Grant Park features areas where fans can watch the draft for free.

Back on December 2, 1963, the last time the NFL draft was held in Chicago, there was no television coverage. Nothing on the radio either. And there certainly wasn't a fan festival like the Draft Town event happening in Grant Park this week, which takes place while the league's teams make their selections across the street at the Auditorium Theatre.

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Bud Light didn't know when to say 'no'

Posted By on 04.30.15 at 08:00 AM

Bad boy beer
  • Gene J. Puskar/AP Photos
  • Bad boy beer
Marketing is like a chess game. The marketer advances a poisoned pawn. Whether eagerly or reluctantly, the opposition bites and takes it. "Oh, my goodness, did we make a humdinger of a mistake!" the marketer then squeals, moving up more pieces to consolidate a winning position.

Who drinks Bud Light? It’s easily the best-selling beer in America, so the answer is lots of people do. But research by Mindset Media a few years ago fleshed out the answer: "Bud Light drinkers profile as lacking in carefulness. They are grounded like their Bud brethren, but respect authority. Bud Lighters can also have frat boy-like personalities, particularly when it comes to personal risk-taking. In regard to others, these good-time guys and gals are accepting of most everyone and generally easy to get along with."

Bud Light drinkers, in other words, are happy to drink a bland, mass-produced domestic beer that flatters their wild-and-crazy side, such as it is—or should we say, their need to think they have one? This tells us the current ad campaign, "The perfect beer for whatever happens," is on the money. The beer bottles carry little hedonistic messages that embellish the boast, one of which asserts Bud Light is "the perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever."

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Best of Chicago voting (round two!) is open

Posted By on 04.30.15 at 07:00 AM

In the first round of Best of Chicago voting, 114,757 were cast. That's like three times more votes than Bob Fioretti got when he ran for mayor.

We tallied the votes (well, an intern did) and compiled the top vote-getters in each category, from the best bike shop to the best street artist to the best pizza—it's up to you which becomes the Best of Chicago for 2015. The finalists are listed below. The round two ballot is open until 5/13. Vote!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Take a breather with hip-hop duo BoneLang's short and sweet Pleasure Palace

Posted By on 04.29.15 at 02:00 PM

I've enthusiastically awaited two mixtapes that are finally out this week. Yesterday Save Money rapper Towkio dropped his debut .Wav Theory (I'll have more on that for his release party at Metro next month), and tomorrow former footwork producer and bop progenitor DJ Nate will release IamLilFlexxii. Between those full-lengths I'm also carving out some time to take in more of Pleasure Palace, an EP that local duo BoneLang put out Monday.

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